Tobacciana - Tobacco & Cigarette History in Advertising

The American Tobacco Company alone during the 1920s and 1930s offered nearly 500 brands of tobacco. Advertisements were a way for brands to differentiate themselves from the mass of nearly identical products, so some of the most beautiful ads from our collection are those from the tobacciana category. Well-known artists like McClelland Barclay, Ludwig Hohlwein, and Alphonse Mucha were hired to create Art Deco or Art Nouveau illustrations, beautiful Oriental prints to showcase the popular Turkish cigarette blends, or images depicting London high-society puffing away with Pall Malls. The three large brands at the time were L&M's Chesterfield, R. J. Reynolds' Camels, and American's Lucky Strike.

Advertising slogans were also extremely popular to persuade consumers to start smoking, or to switch brands. One of the most famous slogans in all of advertising history was used by Lucky Strike and geared toward women— “Reach for a Lucky Instead of a Sweet,” reminding women of the slimming benefits of tobacco smoking, and why a cigarette should be chosen over a piece of candy. This advertising technique would be widely used when marketing cigarettes toward women until the end of the 20th century.

The decade following World War II was the biggest for the tobacco industry. Americans smoked more than they ever had before and ever have since. Cigarettes were included in soldier kits overseas, and back home people were supporting their troops and more than happy to support the purveyors of their cigarettes. In the case of Lucky Strike, for instance, a successful advertising campaign ran that swapped out the normally green label for a white one. The brand stated that the green label had “gone to war.” Sales increased 38% in six weeks time. After the war, soldiers returned home addicted to tobacco, women were more comfortable lighting up (smoking was no longer a man’s pleasure), and it had not yet been determined that smoking was bad for the health.

We carry cigarette advertisements up until the early 1970s, when health authorities worldwide warned about the side effects of smoking.